In any event, I continued reading in the book of Hosea, which I have find quite to my liking in its instructiveness (I suppose there's no such word as that last one, but it is more meaningful than the bland word, instruction). In fact, given the richness of Hosea, I got no further than the next last verses of Chapter 8, the beginning verses of which I blogged about last week.
11 “Though Ephraim built many altars for sin offerings,Reading: Hosea 8: 11-14
these have become altars for sinning.
12 I wrote for them the many things of my law, but they regarded them as something foreign.
13 Though they offer sacrifices as gifts to me, and though they eat the meat, the LORD is not pleased with them. Now he will remember their wickedness and punish their sins: They will return to Egypt.
14 Israel has forgotten their Maker and built palaces; Judah has fortified many towns.
But I will send fire on their cities that will consume their fortresses.”
Meditation: One of the most confusing things that we can do as parents, colleagues, and friends is send mixed messages: we say one thing and do another, we say one thing but deep down mean another, we do one thing but meant to do another. In so doing, generally our real motives remain unclear, and we are judged by our behavior, unmeant as it might be.
There seems to be some of this perversity, or perhaps just plain old human nature, that spills over into our spirituality. We come to church on Sunday (or Friday or Saturday, depending upon our religious persuasions and practices), participate in rituals of worship, and leave with the best of intentions to practice what has been preached during the rest of the week -- and then fall far short of that intention.
On an even more perverse note, there are those who "use" religion for their own purposes. For example, a former boss of mine who would steal from the poor who worked for him by cutting short their pay and never making it up or never reimbursing reimbursable expenses during the year, then spending the month of Ramadan on omra in worshipping Allah and assuming that he was being forgiven for any atrocities he had committed against the poor during the year, and returning to town to lay out a month-long feast for the poor, then beginning the same process all over again.
On a smaller scale, for us Catholics this might be akin to going to confession, carrying out our penance, and sinning the same sin all over again. It happens. We know it does. It probably must happen because we are human.
That is the whiter, lighter, "oops" side of the human condition. There is, unfortunately, the darker one that is exemplified by my former boss and by others I have met. This is where one pretends obeisance to God, does all the things one thinks one is supposed to do to "earn" one's way into God's good graces, then does what one really wants to do, anyway, as if God were not observing and does not care that God's law is being applied as if it were "foreign" (i.e. not applicable), in the process fortifying oneself in ways that are not needed if one has God on one's side. I have seen considerable examples of self-deception among Christians who do exactly what Hosea describes. They do not realize that not only do they not have to "earn" God's grace, they cannot "earn" God's grace. God's grace is freely given, and, we are told, it is given to the just and the unjust. It is a gift, and God decides to whom to gift it -- and is unbelievably generous in gifting it.
Contemplation: That is far as I can go with you this Monday morning. I now retire to private prayer to praise God for His incredible patience with those who do not "get it." I will ask forgiveness for any time my limited ability to understand has caused me to act in perverse ways. I will also ask God to continue to increase my understanding and my trust in relying only on Divine fortification, not human, and to lead me in ways that draw me away from the automatic fulfillment of spiritual "obligations" into a life freely dedicated to all that God would want me to do and to be. Then I will move on to contemplation, my favorite part of the day, letting God take over the direction in which my relationship with Him moves.
I will leave you now to your prayer and contemplation. First, though, I would like to bring to your attention a Monday morning prayer post that you might enjoy:
Fr. Austin Fleming, priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and pastor in Concord, Massachusetts, posts a prayer each Monday morning that he calls "Monday Morning Offering." I enjoy his prayers very much. I think you also will find them inspirational. He has graciously given me permission to include a link to his blog on my Monday Morning Meditation posts. (During the week, he also posts great homilies and other thoughtful discussions. I enjoy reading those, too, as do readers of this blog who have taken the stroll over to his blog.)
For additional inspiration throughout the week, I would point out two sets of blogs: (1) the list of devotional blogs on my sidebar and (2) my blogroll, where I am following a number of inspirational priests and writers about spiritual matters. I learn so very much from all these people. I highly recommend them to you.